I need to know about what qualifications I need to get a job as a photographer

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hi my name is Deanna bond I needed to ask you a few questions. If you could please help me I would very much appreciate it. I am doing a report for school on what I wanna do when I grow up. So I chose to be a photographer, because I love taking pictures. I would like to know what the educational requirements. And I would also like to know what skills are required or needed. Thank you, Deanna Bond

-- Deanna Bond (Shortie158353107@aol.com), March 29, 2000


Deanna: That sounds like a simple request, but it is very difficult to answer. For example, the field of photography you want to enter has a great influence on how you will prepare yourself. For instance, do you wish to work in a studio and do portraits and weddings? Do you wish to work for a newspaper and do sports or news: Do you wish to become a magazine and fashion photographer? How about architectural or industrial work? Maybe a specialized photographer for the government? There are so many fields of photography available as a career. However, the following requirements are pretty standard for all the fields: You must have a good working knowledge of the various cameras and formats. You must have the skill and knowledge to produce a photograph worthy of selling or publication every time you go out on assignment. You must have a knowledge of lighting, including natural light, on- camera flash and studio lighting. You must be able to direct people into situations and poses which make a good picture. If you plan on doing studio work, you must work with people well and bring out the best in them for good portraits. If you are planning to do news or magazine work, you have to be able to get out at all hours in any kind of weather and bring back the pictures. For news work, you must be able to take pictures in situations that make you want to cry or make you cringe in horror. You cannot be an equipment freak, although you will want to use the best equipment practicable for the job. You can learn to be a photographer in college, or you can do what many pros have done...shoot and shoot until you know what you are doing and can deliver good pictures. Photography seems to be moving toward digital for many applications with the exception of fine art, and even there it is making inroads. I would study both traditional slide-negative-positive photography and also become proficient in the use of digital cameras and the computer programs such as Adobe Photoshop and others. To get that first job, you have to prove to your prospective boss that you can do the job with professionalism and in the case of a studio, do it in a way to make money for the boss. This is kind of long-winded, but I don't know a short answer. Hope this helps, Doug.

-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alanet.com), March 29, 2000.


The most important qualification you already have; you love to take pictures. Second, you need to know exactly what kind of photography you like to do. This is more important than it sounds. If you have a passion for what you're doing, it will reflect in your work.

With that out of the way, you need a solid grasp of the mechanics of photography. Most certainly camera controls, but also composition. Some knowlegde of how lenses work is good too. What kind of work you plan to do depends on how you educate yourself. Some people are entirely self-taught. Many photographers have a mix of college and experience, while others have a degree. There are numerous schools that have fine photography programs, and your research should include them. Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, CA is a fine school dedicated to photography. Also look at the Maine Photographic Workshop, and NY Institute of photography. Arizona State (or U of A?) in Tucson has a fine program too. Reviewing their cirriculum will give you some idea of what you need to know.

Just as important as your knowledge in photography is your business acumen. In addition to photography coursework, you will need business courses, especially if you plan on being self employed. If you plan on working for a company, those business skills will help you market your ideas to your boss & your customers.

A lot of experience comes from just shooting. Go out and experiment. Give yourself assignments & see where it leads you. This will also help you learn your equipment so you can spend your energies thinking creatively & translating ideas to film, not trying to find the aperture ring.

This is a long-winded answer, but it gives you some leads on what next to research.

Good luck!


-- Ted Brownlee (OMFBH@AOL.COM), March 29, 2000.

I'm going to add somethin here which I don't think anyone else mentioned ( I kinda skimmed the responses ), but a successful photographer also must have a solid knowledge of business. It's a wonderful thing to be creative, but if one does not know business math, at least some accounting, not to mention some skill with dealing with clients on a personal level, then that person will always have trouble being a successful (money making) photographer. Most of the photography schools I have looked at are sadly lacking in making a photographer a business person. They may be somewhat successful in bringing out the creativity, or at least showing the way, but it's a hard and brutal world in which we live and more is required in order to survive. Food on the table is an important thing at times. Good luck with your project. Fred

-- fred (fdeaton@hiwaay.net), March 29, 2000.

Strictly speaking you do'nt NEED qualifications, as long as your portfolio speaks for itself. But I would suggest in enrolling in a Bsc, HNC/D, Diploma, or City and Guilds course, (or local equivalent) purely because this gives a more thorough grounding than teaching yourself, plus you get to learn variou lab techniques and get access to some pretty modern digtal kit. also, as another poster mentined, business skills are a must, as well as legal knowledge of copyright law(these arn't necessary but they are very beneficial). One other thing I would suggest, try to take some photo essay type photos e.g 24hrs in life of ............ or get involved with a charity and use your photos to highlight it (not only doe it benefit the charity, but you learn experience, and if you can get them publised some money - but one thing only take a small sum and donate the rest to the charity). One thing that also seems more prevelant nowadays is the advent of digital - use it! (Please do'nt go digital for its' own sake use it as a medium for advancing your skills in photography and the business side - i.e when selling prints offer inkjet prints as well as traditional and so on. If you have any further questions please fell free to e-mail me.

-- David Kirk (David_J_Kirk@hotmail.com), March 30, 2000.

One more thing approach a local newspaper and offer to cover local events - though in the first instance you may not get in, but generally speaking small-time papers are better to get experience in as they don't usually have the funding to pay a photographer to cover every event so you may get your' foot in the door that way. Also, for the photo essay thing I mentioned you could do one on the local football/rugby/hockey team(S).

-- David Kirk (David_J_Kirk@hotmail.com), March 30, 2000.

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